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House passes Chaffetz immigration bill removing caps on work visas

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 30 2011 1:47 p.m. MST

Rep. Jason Chaffetz says legal immigration must be fixed before tackling illegal immigration. His bill lifting caps on work visas passed the House on Tuesday.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Jason Chaffetz took office three years ago saying he wanted to fix legal immigration.

With overwhelming support from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the Utah Republican took a step in that direction Tuesday. The House passed his bill lifting caps on visas for high-skilled workers 389-15.

“I’m thrilled to see this pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-family legislation pass the House of Representatives,” he said in a statement.  “I’m committed to fixing legal immigration, and this bill is one part of that important process."

It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would remove the limit on the number of legal permanent residents who may be admitted to the U.S. in any given year from a single country.

Currently, the total number of work visas made available in any foreign country cannot exceed 7 percent of the total number of such visas made available in that year.

The legislation also adjusts limits on family visas without increasing the total number of available visas. 

Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, called passage of the bill a "critical breakthrough" toward fixing the nation's immigration system.

"The per country caps that would be phased out by this legislation are among the most absurd and cumbersome features of the immigration system," she said in a statement. "As is, thousands of foreigners are approved each year to enter the country as legal permanent residents, some sponsored by employers who need their skills, others by family members who have become citizens. But that approval is not enough to get a visa."

Phasing out the caps will dramatically reduce waits for the highly-skilled workers America needs to remain a globally competitive knowledge economy, Jacoby said.

ImmigrationWorks USA is a federation of small business owners working to advance better immigration law.

Chaffetz said the bill creates a fair and equitable, first-come, first-served system, allowing U.S. companies to focus on hiring smart people to create products, services and jobs for Americans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Compete America (a coalition of high tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Oracle) and various trade organizations support the legislation.

The bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 11 House members, including House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com Twitter: dennisromboy

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